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How to Recover the Previous Version of a File

Windows 7 and Windows Vista use System Restore technology, as well as any backups you’ve made of your computer stuff, to rescue older versions of a file. For example, if you change a file, or if it’s overwritten, you can restore it by using this feature. Here’s how:

  1. Right-click the file or folder.

  2. Choose Restore Previous Versions from the shortcut menu.

    The file or folder’s Properties dialog box appears, with the Previous Versions tab upfront.

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    When no previous versions exist, you see the message There Are No Previous Versions Available. That’s it. You’re done: Go to Step 7. Otherwise, you see a list of older copies of the file.

  3. Choose a previous version from the list.

    Ideally, you should select the most recent version, though if you’re after an ancient version of the file or folder, you can pluck it from the list instead.

  4. Click the Open button to open the file and review its contents.

    The Open button is best used when you just want to peek. Use the Open button to open a file, copy a swath of text (or an image), and then close the file without ever restoring it.

  5. Click the Copy button to copy the file or folder to a specific location in your PC’s storage system.

    The Copy option is useful when you don’t want to overwrite the existing version of the file.

  6. Click the Restore button to overwrite the existing file or folder with the previous version; click the Restore button in the warning dialog box to confirm this choice. Click OK.

  7. Close the file or folder’s Properties dialog box when you’re done.

This technology works best when you frequently back up your files; plus, the System Restore utility must be active. You cannot use this if you disabled System Restore.

  • This feature isn’t a substitute for recovering a file from the Recycle Bin; if you delete a file, you need to recover it from the Recycle Bin.

  • The Recycle Bin doesn’t contain older versions of files, nor can it help you restore a file that’s been overwritten with new data. Only this method can bring back a file that’s been changed.

  • You cannot use this feature on Windows files or your programs. For bad program files, reinstall the program.

  • To restore a previous version of a file that has been renamed, use this feature on the folder containing the file. Click the Open button to open the folder’s previous version, and then copy the old file from the folder to its new location.

  • To disable the Previous Versions feature, you simply turn off System Restore.

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